Porto has seen a big increase in the number of tourists in the last few years. As a result, many places of this city have become chaotic in certain periods or days, mainly during the high seasons, weekends and holidays. If you want a peaceful walk, places like Ribeira, Aliados, São Bento, Rua das Flores might not be the best choice. Maybe during the earlier hours of the morning or during the night.
It becomes natural for some people (like me for example) to search for quieter places. Since I started to go for long walks in Porto, I always liked to stop at some place where I could relax. A place with not a lot of movement and noise. So, I chose to end my walks in the gardens of the Crystal Palace.
On the route to the gardens, I would usually pass by a charming little road with the typical buildings of Porto on one side, and with a view of the river on the other. It was a miradouro, but not just some miradouro. There was something special about this one. The view sure was amazing. The majestic building of Alfandega with the river behind, the top of the huge dome of Pavilhão Rosa Mota in the distance, and the various slopes with the beautiful gardens of Virtudes. You can see all of this while sitting in these benches carved into the rock, with a garden behind and in the shade of these enormous trees.
I rested many times in this place. Little did I knew that it was one of the most popular places in the city. You have to realize that all of these walks I mentioned before were made during the morning. Every time I went to this place, there were a couple of people walking, others resting for a while and a few tourists that would take some pictures and immediately leave. Only during a conversation with a friend did I realized the popularity of the place. He said that a lot of people would go there and stayed for hours watching the sunset. It was a suprise for me that this place would be filled with people in the afternoon.
Eventually I went there during the afternoon and witnessed for myself the difference that a couple of hours makes to a place. Large amounts of people started to appear siting in small groups. Accompanying them was some drinks and other forms of recreation. People would make small talk and others would gaze at the gorgeous sunset.
There was a moment when a big group of tourists came. I started to wonder if they were going to stay or just take some pictures and leave. They choose to do the latter. It makes sense, since they probably have a tight schedule and can’t stay there for a long time. That is possibly the greatest reason why this place is so special, at least to me. It’s the balance – a rare thing in this city. It can serve both parties. Tourists can leave satisfied with their beautiful pictures, and locals can appreciate the full potential of Virtudes. A potential that might have been robbed from other places. Places that by now are much more chaotic and confusing to be in.
For my two cents, I would say that this place has to be experienced to fully understand what I am talking about. Either be it during the morning, when you have made a long walk through the city and you need to rest, or during the afternoon when you should go with a group of friends, preferably after buying a pack of beers or a bottle of wine. After that just enjoy the passage of time. It feels good.
Post by Alexandre Martins